Sunday, November 25, 2012

Action Asia V-Dub Fest

Sadly the days of MTB races every month or so are gone in HK. So when the now annual Action Asia MTB race came up as a 2 day VW sponsored event on the two main cross country courses in HK, I, along with at least 100 other riders, wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to race.

Saturday was 2 laps of the classic Chi Ma Wan peninsula, with a lot of testosterone and fresh legs ready to roll from the gun. The usual mad cap start had one guy on the deck before he'd even started, but heading into the single track I was comfortable enough just outside the top 5, mindful of the fact it was a long race and Chi Ma Wan is such a brutal course that there are always some who fall by the wayside for mechanical, strategy or luck reasons.

And so the margin for error proved to be rather small. I found myself leading a group of three down some wooded singletrack when my own little bout of bad luck kicked in- my bars got caught on a vine I hadn't seen and catapulted me sideways into the bushes! No harm done I brushed myself down and got back to the chase, even if my rhythm was gone somewhat. One of the local riders in my group I would never see again, as he powered his way to 4th on the day, whilst my friend Lewis, who'd clearly been riding too many road bikes and not enough trails, retired. Another casualty from the front of the race was Pierre (pictured above), who had been leading, but rolled his tire off the rim and also retired. My only real age category contender, Ed Cork, who'd flown in from Shanghai the night before, also retired with a mechanical, leaving the front end of the race a little lighter than usual.

At the real business end of the race Keung (pictured above leading) and Cosmo (just behind) fought it out for the win, quite literally, with Keung using all his elbows to make sure Cosmo couldn't pass. It would have been an interesting battle- Keung is the faster rider in a straight line, but Cosmo is so good technically and knows this course like the back of his hand. The above picture was taken about 50m before the finishing line.

Meanwhile, having still posted a 51 minute opening lap I was feeling good on lap 2, confident I would hold onto a solid Top 10 position for the day. Until about 2km to go when the dreaded leg cramp started to creep in! Whilst I was still lapping riders, I could hear someone quite fast starting to make some inroads onto my time. Pedalling with one leg I tried to relax and stretch out on the bike. Easier said than done, the last descent came just in time and I held on for what would turn out to be 5th position on the day, and 1st in my age group. Not bad for a day of crashes and cramps!

Sunday was a new day with a few pairs of fresh legs arriving from those who'd either retired or not ridden yesterday's event. Still, the turnout was even bigger, with around 150 riders estimated to have turned up in Tai Lam Chung for the day. Off the start line there wasn't too much evidence of tired legs though as we hit the initial few km's of tarmac climbs. Keung did his usual trick of attacking like a mountain biking Vinokourov, immediately splitting the field and making a selection. I just missed the cut in this elite group, but still hit the singletrack safely in the Top 10.

With no Cosmo today, Pierre (above) took up the mantle for chasing Keung. Again, Pierre is the better technical rider, but on a course where leg power counts more than most, Pierre was destined for a still admirable 2nd place on the day.

I managed to get my wheel in the air for the photographer on my way to what I thought was a smoking 41.47 first lap. And in years gone by that sort of lap time would possibly have won you the race. But as years go on, speeds go up and times come down. Luckily for me, I had no cramp or crashing issues like on Chi Ma Wan, and I rode a solid 2nd lap for what turned out to be another age category win (My Shanghai man really lost out on not knowing the course...) and 6th on the day. Slightly frustratingly, this put me in 4th overall for the two days, which I always think is the worst place to be- give me 3rd or 5th any day!!!

Leeps (above) rode his way to another 2nd place in Cat behind Lantau rut rider Aldo. The G force from those stairs must be pretty extreme Mark!!!

Meanwhile our track coach Christopher rode his mate's bike to a solid Top 10 position. Can I be 55kg for the hills also please?

And then of course we have the ever smiling Nora, who got a superb 2nd place behind the wonderfully named Philipino Ladies category winner, Baby Bit Bit. And that, I think, is the icing on the cake of  pretty fun weekend's mountain bike racing.

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